NUL shut down in fresh turmoil

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ROMA — The National University of Lesotho (NUL) was yesterday shut down after non-academic staff joined the ongoing strike by lecturers and researchers.

Last Friday lecturers and researchers went on strike demanding a 15 percent pay rise.

Yesterday the non-academic staff joined the strike demanding an end to the restructuring exercise which started just over four months ago.

Management told the students that the university will remain closed until further notice.

All students were sent home.

The NUL Non-Academic Workers Union (Nawu) handed a petition to Vice-Chancellor Professor Sharon Siverts accusing the management of not implementing the restructuring programme in “good faith”.

The union accused Siverts of making decisions without consulting them.

“The NUL management has dismally failed to act in good faith in the issues related to restructuring. The current handling of the restructuring process is wrong, illegal, unprocedural and totally unacceptable,” the petition charged.

“We are concerned about management’s unilateral decisions that are directly affecting the workforce and the student population of this university.”

The union said although they were informed that the university was in a financial crisis Siverts’ management continues to be wasteful.

To justify this claim Nawu alleges that some people were moved from their core positions and redeployed to new ones with bigger salaries. They said although the purpose of the restructuring was to rein-in costs there was still a serious duplication of roles in the management.

“We are shocked to see that while management is claiming that university finances are slim, there are some practices that are contrary to this claim.”

“Our argument is supported by the following observations: lecturers are removed from the core business which is teaching and redeployed in the management positions. By the look of things, this structuring (sic) process is meant to sustain the new establishment structure with fat salaries and large packages for certain individuals instead of addressing the so-called financial crisis.”

“The salaries of three registrars, and three bursars at the same time impact negatively on the finances of this institution (sic).

“As if this is not enough, we see members of the NUL workforce being coerced to opt for special early retirement given a short period of time to make lifetime decision (sic).”

The union wants the restructuring programme stopped and the retrenchments suspended.

Nawu also want the management to advise Nul council chairman ‘Molotsi Monyamane “to immediately stop micro-managing the NUL to its downfall and to confine his efforts in Council leadership”.

“Lastly, Madam, it is the expectation of Nawu that management will address the above issues within 14 days on receipt of the petition.”  Meanwhile Ramohapi Shale, the president of the Lesotho University Teachers and Researchers Union (LUTARU), told the Lesotho Times that they will only resume work when their concerns have been addressed.

“This is an indefinite strike,” Shale said.

“We will only start work when a resolution is reached. But the management has declined to speak to us. Instead we have been ordered not to access the schools facility while we are on strike.”

The university’s Students’ Representative Council (SRC) has since requested a meeting with the management and the unions as part of efforts to end the strike.

“We have not been taught since last Friday. No one has bothered to tell the students what is going on. This is not fair,” said Khotso Makhetha, a member of the SRC.

NUL is in a serious financial mess caused by years of poor management and imprudent expenditure.

To cut costs Professor Siverts, who was appointed early this year, started implementing the restructuring process in July.

The restructuring will include drastic cost cutting measures like retrenchments, forced leave and making lecturers take more classes.

The university will also drop some degree programmes to focus on those that are considered “more relevant to the country’s needs”.

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